Sep 4, 2013
What you do for your bosses, husband, and children they’ll come to expect.
I coined this expression when I used to clean houses for a living. I was kind enough to wash and redistribute towels in a client’s bathroom. And the next time I cleaned for her, she was indignant that I’d not done this again. I had never agreed to it as part of my cleaning services to begin with. But somehow, my kindness had turned on me and become an expectation.
Now I am married with children and, at this very moment, I am listening to my little 6 month old red-headed daughter scream and shudder because she thinks I should be retrieving her from her nap. Except, if you’ve napped enough, do you scream? I think not. Death Nap Match of the Fall of 2013 has begun. Rule of thumb is that a well napped child is not screaming and is pleasant to be around. I’m in for the penny and pound as I see this tactic through.
Mother’s have a horribly hard time allowing their children to do things for themselves. And by rushing in, we rob them of many opportunities of creating competency. In this instance, comforting and putting themselves back to sleep. But I could include in this generality, and you’d agree, wiping their butts, cutting up their meat, tying their shoes, and speaking for themselves. Not only will they expect you to continue to do so, they secretly believe you are telling them they’re incapable of doing it themselves. That’s no good.
As for the husband? Save maybe 6 hours, I’ve spent these past 180 days straight with the daughter. He’s panicked at the thought of spending any alone time with the “baby” for fear he’ll do something wrong. She seems to cry when he’s alone with her. If we don’t create the opportunity for them to bond, how will they? It may be a rough ride but they’ll live through it. He’ll create competency and I’ll get some alone time.
Oh, you want to know what happened with the screaming baby? Of course I went and got her. After her hollering for 40 minutes straight, she was getting hoarse with no signs of letting up. I picked her up and held her silently rocking her. And after a few minutes I laid her down to change her and there were no apparent hard feelings from either of us. Her eyes are bleary and it’s as if nothing ever happened. Until next nap time.
Be careful what you choose to do because you and the world, and your child, may expect it of you ever after. We are all entitled to our boundaries, to our needs, and to being proud of them when they learn they can do without us.
Aug 21, 2012
(Originally published on Divine Caroline in September of 2009)
Ask my husband about his family’s vacations and he will deliver a chirpy recount of playing guitar at beach campfires, sleeping in a pop-up camper, and the frolicking multitude of cousins. My fractured family vacation memory is one trip to a cabin. There was yelling involved. Add the 15-mile endurance hikes complete with gorp and hard-earned sleep on the ground, a coincidental side effect of divorce and my mother’s new beau, and I don’t have much for the great outdoors or vacations.
Then I grew up, got hitched, had a kid and me and mine just returned from our annual September sojourn to the beach. Yes, it is off-season (also known as hurricane season), but I sleep in a king size bed and relax knowing the rates and crowds are halved. Crowds do not relax me, but neither does wearing a bathing suit. Sacrifices.
Back when we were only “two for dinner,” my husband and I traveled a few times. Our first trip was to England and Ireland. This trip clinched my future “I Do” to this man. If the long leg cramping plane ride, jet lag, and barreling down the side of a mountain in a Ford Fiesta on the wrong side of the road in the pouring rain doesn’t stress you out enough to even bicker, he’s the one. We each had our duties; he was the money man and I was the navigator. We still have these roles in our daily life.
Our first beach trip was a birthday celebration for me and we checked into our hotel anticipating a little vacation nookie. We agreed, “Nice pool” and “Killer water slide.” The next time we visited, I was knocked up guaranteeing our future return with a “family” perspective.
We took no vacations with our baby. He was already too much work. I couldn’t imagine spending all that money to not relax. We didn’t even eat out a lot in his third year because mostly he’d act like a jackass when we did and, once again, I didn’t want to waste the money.
We finally took the kid on an overnight when he was three and a half. It was okay. He was thrilled to press the elevator button, ride on the luggage cart, and find our room by reading the numbers. Although, when we told him it was time to go to sleep, he said he was ready to go home and sleep in his own bed. I spent that night sleepless, in and out of both beds, and the kid slept soundly.
This year’s trip proved he’s a big boy. I did not constantly feel irked or think about his every need. We ate out three times and he ate a third of his food each time. Huge deal. Not a lot of back-up food was really necessary. Other highlights included hunting down a special shovel and bucket set for the low, low price of 8.49 plus tax. This made the beach an event.
Every year we improve our experience. This year we found a restaurant with a playground, sand floor, good food and beer, and a sunset water view. And though we neglected to bring a DVD for the hotel room, Errol Flynn’s Robin Hood playing on a classic movie channel did the trick. Pirate themed putt-putt golf was a riot. Little dude’s job was to sink the final shots into the cup which he did stooped over and choked up on his little orange putter. We got some great pictures and, fortunately, I was wearing makeup!
I wanted to travel the boardwalk in one of those multi-person pedaling cycle cart things called a surrey. Much like the Flintstone mobiles, it took all your leg power to get it moving. And when a certain four-year-old had to sit on the steering wheel lap to steer and weave his way up the boardwalk through terrified pedestrians, the remaining person was pedaling. That was me. The lap person’s job was equally hard balancing the bruising of the driver’s sensibilities with the saving of lives by grabbing the wheel or slamming on the break. The heat and humidity were an added bonus.
Our last hurrah has become the arcade on the boardwalk followed by fries, lemonade, and a photo-booth picture. This year I added shopping, of course. Jewelry for me and pirate tee for the boy.
It took me a day to realize I didn’t have to do much of anything. Maybe you have to vacate home to focus on the small stuff that doesn’t include the dirty floor, bills, laundry, incomplete projects, or upcoming events that lack to do lists. I sat and I read a lot. And I really did enjoy just being. I enjoyed being the mother of the a cute kid on at the beach. I enjoyed the cool husband who took the first shift in the pool. I enjoyed spraying really cold water-repellent sun block on my kid which made him scream. I enjoyed going down the water slide with this cute ghostly pale kid with the shark swimmy on who yanked off his wet shorts when we got out of the pool.
Sometimes, you need a special mental and physical zone where you have nothing to do but enjoy the scenery. You may need to vacate your comfort zone and find a place where you prioritize creating memories and smiles and tradition. Where you spend a little extra time and money to enjoy your people and the life you usually take for granted and where you generate the photo-op for this year’s Christmas card. Did I mention the kid’s really really cute?
Aug 18, 2012
Discovering I was pregnant at 45 years old was undoubtedly one whomping miraculous gift of amazing proportions. Whereas last time I discovered my impending parenthood my shock was due to my feelings of complete incompetency. This time my shock was simply because my fondest wish and hope had actually been realized. I could not believe it. When I shared my news, people asked me if this was a good thing because of the shocked expression I wore. Because I wasn’t sure I was worthy of such a blessing.
With this pregnancy, I have been suffering from a feeling akin to survivor’s guilt. I am keenly aware that many women I’m close to have had “issues” with their lack of children. Whether they regretted not choosing to conceive while they could, or they were unable to conceive for reasons beyond their control, I feel for them. I can remember feeling rankled by the arrogance of some breed-easy people. And here I am suddenly luckier than a leprechaun pulling the short straw.
I wanted to apologize for my good fortune. In fact I did to one friend. I dreaded being a source of new found grief for the unresolved sadness of my dear friends. I felt as if I couldn’t write about it. And this is a sure sign that there something not quite right in my head. Because that’s crazy talk. Again, low self-esteem may be to blame for my feelings of unworthiness of my happiness or any future help I will receive in my time of need. Because I’ll need help.
Further, I’m thinking, anyone who’d begrudge me my happiness, in whatever form it comes, may need to consider why? “I’m happy,” I told my husband and he said “Good, you deserve to be”. And then I asked why he said that? Because I have had enough of grief and misery for a lifetime? Because pregnant ladies deserve to be happy to counterbalance their tough job ahead? Or because he loves me unconditionally and always wants me happy? “All of it”, he says.
Every time I think about what’s happening inside me and how my life will be better than I can even know, I get butterflies. I could continue to feel guilty but I just can’t anymore. And when I heard the half a second of the baby’s heartbeat yesterday, I know it’s the real deal. And it’s all good.
Jun 29, 2012
So far we’re having a happenin’ summer. There have been parties and pools and outings. And the real camps have yet to begin. My new jobs as cruise director and camp counselor are cramping my post deliveries. I’m doing pretty well at everything else but.
This past week, my life-long friend and soul-sister Sarah and her son Charlie came to visit us. Camp Shalagh began. Sarah and I met over forty years ago when I fell off her pier near Annapolis, MD, and busted my lip open. We journeyed to her old house to see this place and took our kids.
Lace cap hydrangea and lady roses
Her son is slightly older than my son so he had to put up with a little shadowing. I’d brought a sacrifice to the alter of friendship and it had been accepted. They played on the playground she did when she was little. We had lunch at the Double T diner. We all got along despite the attempted whining on their part. We just wined later.
We enjoyed lots of hours on my back porch in the beautiful weather chatting and sipping Pinot Grigio. Our kids caught fireflies, talked about Greek mythology, hit golf balls at the house, played rock star in the garage, and threw rocks in the mud of the low tide river. We chilled, grilled, and enjoyed the visit. Because that’s what vacationing and summer is all about. Being not doing.
Huge thanks to Sarah for the forethought of the visit and setting a spell with me and mine. Calendars have also been synchronized for the rest of the summer’s fun including a Williamsburg trip and a beach trip. I’m setting it in place and then enjoying the ride. Next year, I’ll make sure to have my posts stockpiled for you amusement. Enjoy the pictures and your Fourth of July.
Chillin’ at the art gallery
Jan 18, 2012
On MLK day, I watched my six year old son as he and this little girl did the fluttering swirling dance that butterflies do as they ascended the spiral staircase inside the cage at the McDonald’s Playplace, their faces sometimes six inches apart. When they separated, one down the slide, one not, she called his name incessantly. I heard it at least 50 times. Her repeated cries were lyrical and full of necessity.
She needed for him to pay constant attention to her for at least an hour straight. And he needed her attention just as badly it would seem.The way he mooned at her, you’d think we’d never paid attention to him. I felt a kindred spirit in that girl. She has learned her temptress ways from an obvious master. As I recall, she had it down in Kindergarten too. The meeting at the restaurant was just a chance rekindling of an old flame. Or there was a storm and he was the available port.
My boy asked his Dad / my husband the next day if he’d had girlfriends when he’d been in school. That was a big ten four little buddy. And I remember being my kid’s age and marrying a kid named Jeff in a play/pretend ceremony. We were dressed as bunnies in leotards. He was in gray and I was in black. So romantic. Until my one longtime girlfriend from grade school told me this first grade Romeo was marrying all the girls in our first grade.
I can admit I saw my future flash in front of my eyes at the McD’s. I hope that in 6th grade and beyond, he’ll be a lunkhead and won’t comprehend the girls liking him. He’ll be too busy with his sports or academics to notice. It’s my hope that his self-esteem is at least mid-grade when he get’s hit with the hormonal storm. And that he’s not attracted to the un-savable girls. That was his parents’ MO and I would hate for it to be his. Yet, it’s his destiny, not mine. My plan is to smile and invite the possible vampires in for dinner, crumble holy crackers around their chairs, and ask them all the uncomfortable questions as to keep them in the light until they ignite and burn with the truth right in front of his eyes. A mother can dream.